The long-distance love of Lars von Trier and Willem Dafoe

The long-distance love of Lars von Trier and Willem Dafoe

Wizard of pause: Lars von Trier's awkward silences characterize his press conferences as well as his films (Photo by Sarah Nicole Prickett) 

The Scotiabank Theatre screen used to project Antichrist director Lars von Trier (he refuses to fly, so he appeared at this morning’s press conference via satellite) was massive, yet couldn’t contain the magnitude of the auteur’s depression. He joked brokenly about “being crazy,” about his therapy sessions, about his inability to remember a single positive feeling in weeks. A reporter from CTV who may have seen Lars von Trier films, but has obviously never watched them, asked him what he saw as “the hopeful point of resolution” in “a movie filled with sex, and rape, and all that stuff.”

The awkward refused to pass. Silence.

“Willem?” said von Trier, looking like a lost koala at the star of his film, Willem Dafoe, who wouldn’t answer either. Cringing hard, we were beats away from putting up our own hand and saying, “I have a question for the CTV woman. Why does there need to be hope?” But then von Trier began answering, stumbled for minutes, and came up with: “Religion is my cinema. But hope, yeah, I’m not crazy about hope in films.”

Valid. Yet after watching the intimate dynamic between the sad man and his wry star, we think perhaps there’s more to it. Maybe Lars von Trier is a hopeless romantic. There was an undeniable longing projecting from the screen to the real-life stage where Dafoe sat. Could theirs be an unspoken love, the secret wellspring of all von Trier’s tears?

Three points for consideration:

1. On Dafoe’s nudity in the film, von Trier raved for five minutes: “It was amazing to me, how much he wanted to be naked in the film.” The audience giggled uncomfortably. “Maybe we shouldn’t talk about private parts until after noon,” said the moderator, finally.

2. On finding his leading man: “I was thinking of somebody younger, I must say, and then Willem emailed me…and straight away it was right. And then I was happy because I had felt very lonely. It was not my idea, but it was great. Thank you.”

3. Apropos of nothing: “I miss you, Willem.” And Dafoe: “I miss you, too, Lars.”